Reading put in a fantasic performance over the full 90 minutes to send Southampton crashing out of the cup in the best third round FA Cup result of the weekend. As the temperature at last climbed over freezing the referee judged the pitch playable and with all the players getting on their trainers the Royal's showed just how playable the pitch was.
With the return of Tommy Wright to Nottingham Forest, after 17 stunning performances for the Royals to get his career back on track, Bobby Mihaylov made a return to the team. With Hunter suspended Holsgrove popped up into the middle of defence. Lambert got to start as number 10 with Morley seemingly the lone striker up in front of midfield.
Southampton got marginally the better start with some flowing passing stuff before Reading quickly got on top. It took Reading twenty minutes to take the lead. Williams legged it down the right and, as the defender kept his wide, he was forced to put right down to the line. As he tried to cut in he lost possesion. In a defensive cock up instead of hoofing the ball clear he started to dribble it forward across the area. In a second of genius Marty Williams legged it after the ball, hooked his leg around, tackled and prodded the ball into the path of Jamie Lambert advancing in the middle. Lambert powered the ball into the right of the net past Beasant to put the Royals 1-0 up!
Southampton already looked in trouble as their reply consisted of loads of normal Reading style hopeful long balls into the Reading half. Reading were winning the balls in the air and clearing well from the back. Southampton had a couple of passing moves but relied too much on random hoofs. The defence looked pretty tight, despite the absense of Barry Hunter, tight marking, not giving away any space and Holsgrove and Bernal clearing in the air. The Saints were restricted to a couple of long shots going no-where. In an offside incident the Saints forward hopelessly fired the ball wide from close range.
Reading made few first half chances but still looked the more comfortable team. One major difference from recent games was the ability to keep the ball and control of the game. Southampton were the team hoofing the thing while Reading kept it more on the floor and came forward gradually but well. We had a couple of crosses from Lambert and Williams, while at the other end Bobby Mihaylov was on top form on his return to the team to punch away a couple of powerful long shots.
One-nil to the Royals at half time after a solid first half performance.
Southampton quickly drew the game level shortly after half time with the ball played forward down the right and fired to the right of Bobby Mihaylov. 1-1. Southampton then enjoyed their best spell of the game sensing they could drag something out of the game. But Reading refused to sit back and some frantic play soon saw the Saints back-pedalling. Southampton threatened to take the lead when a ball over the top saw their forward outpace our last defender. Mihaylov legged it off his line and dived brilliantly at his feet on the edge of the area to prevent a shooting chance.
Then Reading started to turn on the class. If a neutral was there he'd have guessed the Royals as the Premier team. The defence shut out the brief danger, Caskey commanded the midfield and the Royals pushed forward. Southampton must have been shitting themselves. The passing was fantastic, Lambert was running rings round their right back. More than anything we looked so determined that this game was ours and that was the difference. It was no suprise when we regained the lead about 5 minutes later. And what a goal.
Lambert put over another superb cross from the left after running down the wing with ease past his marker. The ball came over to Morley on the right. Trev flicked it back with his head directly to Caskey who had made a great run into the middle just in front of goal. With the ball ever so slightly behind him he stretched his right leg back behind him and swung it forward to volley the ball into the roof of the net, off the finger tips of the hapless Dave Beasant. What a sexy goal. We all went mad in celebration.
Reading hadn't scored more than two in a match for the whole season but for this game it never seemed in doubt that we'd get at least three. The third wasn't long in coming. It was another cross from Lambert that led to the goal - keeping his involvment in every Reading goal. The cross was a high one dipping into the area as Lambert ran clear once again of his marker. The ball seemed to be heading right to Beasant in the middle of the box. However Morley was running in to meet the cross at top speed accompanied with Southampton defender Benali. The two players tumbled just inside the box with Morley clutching his head following Benali's elbow making contact. The ref pointed right at the spot with no hesitation and Benali got the red card. Morley stepped up to blast the ball in the roof of the net for his 13th of the season and to put the Royals 3-1 up.
Reading then went totally mental for the last 10 minutes. Real vintage Reading coming straight at the Southampton goal, first time passing, running from Gilkes and Lambert, and Caskey scorching through the middle making his presence more than felt and laying off some great balls to create chances. With more men in the middle we could have turned in a few of the great crosses from Lambert and Williams. Holsgrove came forward to fire a shot just wide of the left post.
With just five minutes remaining Byron Glasgow came on for Martin Williams to make his first team debut for the club. Now this was an amazing performance. Considering he only had a few minutes to impress in his first game - a game that the Royals were easily winning - he really impressed. He seemed just like a short Michael Gilkes with incredible pace. His first involvment was a speedy run down the right outpacing the defender who seemed to be there first to win a throw deep in the Saints half. Glasgow then cut in superbly from the right to break into the area to create a chance that almost saw the Royals make it four-one. A shot came in through the middle and the ball came out of the area to be thumped in again. The ball flew against the bar and just over.
With the game all but over there was still time for Slater to pick up Southampton's second red card of the afternoon. The ball seemed to go off for a throw, Slater went over to the linesman to take the throw. The linesman flagged like mental and the ref dismissed Slater for seemingly racist abuse against the linesman. Twat. Deserved the red card then in my opinion. Then as the final whistle went Souness, probably wound up by the South Banks' 'Souness Out' chants, thought he'd join in by storming on the pitch to attack the referee. Twat. In my honest opinion the referee had a great game. Maybe Southampton should learn to play football instead of whinging.
Forget all that though - this was simply a fantastic performance by the Royals as we put Southampton out of a cup for the second time in a year. The team as a whole played brilliantly and made Southampton look very ordinary. Full of passion and commitment to produce a thrilling, exciting FA Cup tie. Everyone played well but Holsgrove stood out for a amazingly solid, safe defence role. Caskey again played a blinder with a very commanding midfield role. He came through the middle so many times and his goal was a real scorcher. Bobby Mihaylov made a great return to ease all our goalkeeping worries. And what a one for the future Glasgow must be.
A local hero on a weekly contract outshone the high-priced stars of the Premiership and inspired the biggest shock of the FA Cup third round on a day of shame for Southampton.
The Premiership's bottom team had defender Francis Benali and midfielder Robbie Slater sent off during a stormy second half as the team who trounced Manchester United suffered their own humiliation.
James Lambert, a 22-year-old Reading boy who is in dispute with the club over pay, was the star of a display in which his team showed by far the greater appetite for the contest on a difficult, rock-hard pitch.
Graeme Souness later launched a blistering attack on referee Graham Poll for allowing the game to go ahead, accusing him of making two 'incredible statements' after the Southampton manager had claimed at the morning inspection that the pitch was unplayable. According to Souness, the referee said the pitch was the same as it would be in August and the players would have no trouble if they played at 90 per cent. Souness risked an FA rap when he added: 'Mr Poll has a reputation within the professional game as a man who wants to make a name for himself, and he certainly did that today.' But Reading's joint player-manager Mick Gooding insisted the pitch was fit for play, and his team underlined the argument with the quality of their football in their best performance of the season.
They went in front after 19 minutes when Martin Williams prodded the ball across the area for Lambert to beat Dave Beasant at his near post with a first-time, left-foot shot. Signs of frustration were creeping into Southampton's game as Dutch defender Ulrich van Gobbel and skipper Matthew Le Tissier were cautioned for fouls before half-time.
They appeared to be pulling themselves together when Egil Ostenstad drove in a 49th-minute equaliser, but just when it seemd the Premiership side might avoid embarrassment, Reading stepped up the pace to regain the lead four minutes later with a glorious goal. Lambert was the creator this time. His tricky run ended with a cross to the far post which was headed back by Trevor Morley for Darren Caskey to belt home a 55th-minute volley.
Then, with 14 minutes left, Lambert hoisted a high ball into the box and the referee ruled that Benali had elbowed Morley and promptly produced the red card before pointing to the penalty spot. Morley, the former West Ham and Manchester City striker, got up to convert the 76th-minute spot-kick for his 13th goal of the season.
Then, with time running out, Slater was shown the red card because, according to Mr Poll, he committed a foul and then verbally abused a linesman.